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The 4H's retrospective

The 4H’s retrospective is a great retrospective to do at the end of a sprint with your team. It looks at both the positive things as the challenges the team is currently facing, and how the team can help each other in these challenges. The 4H’s also includes looking at the future, and the hopes of the team.

The Icebreaker

The suggested icebreaker for this format is a chart that indicates how satisfied the team is with the result of the last sprint, and with the way the team works together. You can actually use this icebreaker as the entire format for your retrospective if you like, but you can also use it to quickly measure the temperature and move on to the 4H’s.

The goal is to get everybody engaged and focused on the retrospective, so they are not being distracted by other work. 

The retrospective format

The 4H’s retrospective consists of 4 stages:

  1. “Hero:” who is your hero from the last sprint? Who didn’t something great (for the team)?
  2. “Help:” looking back, where could you have used a bit more help from the team? What would the impact have been?
  3. “Happy:” what made you happy in the last sprint? What went well?
  4. “Hope” what do you hope for the next sprint(s)? What would you like to have available, or be able to do?

The first stage is all about giving kudos to each other, and giving the team credits for the good things that they did in the last sprint. There might be things that you want to keep doing in the next sprints, and keep your focus on.

In the second stage, we want to identify moments in the last sprint when a team member didn’t get the help he/she needed, or perhaps didn’t notice that help would have been valuable. These insights can help the team in reaching out to each other faster in the future.

In the third stage, we want to mention the happy things from the last sprint: what did the team like? Here, you can also see if there is the option to keep doing these things in the next sprints, or perhaps redo any of these things in the future.

The last stage is focused on the upcoming sprints. What does the team hope to have available, be able to do, …? Use this information to proactively enable these things with the team, if possible.

While having the discussion on a topic, always focus on what’s within the control of the team. Don’t focus too much on external people or factors, but mainly on the things that are within the control of the team to identify improvement actions that the team is able to take. You want to have 1 – 2 action items at the end of the retrospective that you can implement in the next iteration(s). Remember: you will not always have big live changing action items in each retrospective. That’s also not the intention. A small action that brings a small improvements is already very good. Try to improve a little each sprint instead of trying to bring big changes at once.

About last retrospective...

A crucial part of the retrospective is to reflect on the outcome of the previous one! Teams often forget to do this, but it is very important as it gives the team the confirmation that the action items are actually important… And that we want to make sure we improve! There is a section on the top of the template where you can refer to the action items of the last retrospective. Go over them, see how you are doing in regards to them, and decide what to do next.

Rate your retro!

At the very end of the retrospective, I ask the team to quickly rate their retrospective with focus on: 

  1. Did we have a good discussion? Did we speak openly, and respect each others opinion?
  2. Do we have valuable action items? And, are we confident that we will do them in the next sprint?

We also use a feedback wall where team members can share their feedback on the retrospective. As the facilitator, you can encorporate this feedback into the next retrospective session.

Other things about the format

On the very top of the format, you can see 2 elements:

  • Action items / experiments: this is the place where you would write down the action items during the retrospective. This makes it easy to summarize them at the end of the session.
  • Idea for the next retrospective: I always like to foresee an area where people can give feedback or give input for the next retrospective. This can be feedback on the current format, ideas for a new format, tips, general feedback… Anything that can help us make the next retrospective even better! I would not make it required for people to give input in this, make them feel free to give input when they come up with something.

Download the template (for free)

You can download the Miro template for free below:

If you don’t have a premium version of Miro, you can also download the picture at the top of the screen and create the board in Google Drawings.


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